Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Most Eventful Day (23 November)

A Surprise Start

As I arrive at school this morning, something seems out of the ordinary.  It takes me a moment to realise that that something is the police car that is parked in the driveway leading into the main building of my school.  My first thought: They’re here to question a waygook.  What did we do?  As I enter the main building, I see my vice-principal and a few more important looking people (one of whom I’m sure must be the principal) hurrying down the stairs.  Something BIG is going down, it seems.  One of the teachers in my office is clearly dying to inform someone of the scandal so I don’t have to wait too long to get the news…

The first and second graders are writing mock tests all day today.  Apparently, when one of the homeroom teachers arrived in the classroom this morning, there was a student ‘sleeping’ at one of the desks.  Since this is not unusual, the teacher tried to wake the student since the tests were about to begin.  It turns out the student was sleeping but had passed out.  It was a third grader who seems to have been out drinking since the CSATs finished last Thursday and has literally been travelling around town.  The student was a bit belligerent so the school called the police to handle the situation.  The funniest part of this incident is that it wasn’t even a student from our school!  Surely, after a three year endurance test that is high school in this country, you’d want to break out of a classroom rather than into one? 

Korean Charades

With an interesting start to the day and having narrowly escaped a minor cold over the weekend, the last thing I feel like doing is invigilating (or proctoring as the Americans call it and consequently so do the Koreans) tests.  Fortunately, I only have one test to supervise.

Arriving at the class, I’m surprised when the Korean teacher leaves me alone to supervise the exam.  I’d been expecting to stand at the back of the room as usual and spend the next 50 minutes trying to prevent my soul from escaping my body but now I find myself in the unexpected position of sole supervisor.  Okay…I can do this – after all, I’ve done it lots of times in South Africa.  I move to the front of the room where I stand next to the teacher’s desk and try to look official.  A few minutes later, I notice one of my co-teachers doing waving at me from the corridor outside of the classroom. He then proceeds to do what appear to be leg squats in the corridor and it takes me a few seconds to realise he’s attempting to communicate something to me non-verbally. 

I’ve already discovered that Korean non-verbal communication is almost non-existent so I’m even more confused when he points to the desk and does another squat.  Clearly this approach is not successful for either of us because he eventually enters the classroom to speak to me.  I’m told not to “torture [myself] by standing”.  Apparently this is not a very important test so I am free to sit at the teacher’s desk and play around on the internet as long as I’m physically in the classroom.  It certainly makes invigilation more fun than when we have to just stand and try not to be bored.

By the time I return to my desk, my fabulous co-teacher has sent me the edited version of my lesson that was filmed last week.  It’s the first time I’ve seen myself teach so I’m quite excited as I load the clip.  Within five minutes, I’ve irritated myself with the number of “Okay”s and “Alright”s that I seem to use repetitively as space fillers – I’ve never even realised that I do this!  The combination of the flapping about of my hands and the gestures that serve NO purpose make me want to walk out of my own lesson although I don't understand how my students manage to sleep with all that noise.  It’s an interesting, embarrassing and frustrating 40 minutes of watching myself but I also have to admit that I speak very clearly and am a better speaker than I previously thought.

Breaking News - And Then Back to Work!

I’m so engrossed in watching the video of my lesson that I barely notice that the mail has arrived and that there’s a parcel for me.  I’m impressed that the books that I ordered on Sunday afternoon from the fantastic English bookstore, What the book, in Itaewon, has arrived – at least, the first half has arrived!  There’s not much time left in the afternoon but it’s enough to fit in a 30 minute news broadcast about North Korea attacking Yeongpyeong Island which is part of South Korea.  It’s interesting to watch such footage and not have a clue what is going on so I quickly log onto the BBC’s website and try to catch up with the news while my colleagues watch the tv in our office for approximately one minute, shrug their shoulders and return to work.  It’s rather sad, and a bit like a murder in South Africa, that this is so much a part of daily life in Korea that an attack on the country doesn’t even stop a work day for most of my colleagues.

Dinner With the Staff

It’s soon time to leave for the second grade teachers’ dinner tonight with the principal and vice-principal.  Since the vice-principal is in my office, I know exactly what he looks like and I try to greet him appropriately each day.  The principal, however, could be anyone since I’ve only seen him once.  Consequently, it shouldn’t surprise me to find myself talking to NZ2 in the entrance hall of the school and be perplexed when he suddenly bows rather low in greeting to a male colleague.  An enquiry later has him laughing and telling me that that was the principal and I barely budged!  I attempt to memorise his face so that I can just about touch my head to the floor the next time I encounter him in the hallway which, apparently, is rather frequently and I just haven’t realised it was the main honcho…

Dinner is an interesting event and the first time I’ve gone out with Korean people actually.  We’re seated in the traditional section (ie. On the floor) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the three foreign teachers are the first staff to arrive.  By the time the rest of the teachers and the principal arrives, we’re hungry and eager to eat.  My school, still labouring until the miscomprehension that I’m not actually a vegetarian but rather just eat small quantities of meat, has thoughtfully phoned ahead and ordered bimbimbap for me.  This is a dish that consists of various mixed vegetables (bibim) and rice (bap) and is surprisingly tasty although a bit too spicy.  I literally have tears rolling down my cheeks as a result of the spicy nature of the food although I am actually enjoying it.  After the meal, we’re served Korean tea which tastes strongly of cinnamon, is cold yet sweet and deliciously refreshing!  My first true Korean meal is a success.  With a bit of luck, tomorrow’s first grade teachers’ dinner will go just as well…

After such an eventful day, it’s understandable that all I want to do is go to bed by the time I get back to my apartment which, in reality, is at around 18:30.  Instead, I curl up with a good book now that I have some more reading material…

1 comment:

  1. Sounds awesome, funny and incredible!
    Makes me wonder also what your colleagues think of your actions.
    Thanks for blogging, look forward to the next post!